SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Punjab fails to get urgent hearing in SC
HC nod to Amarinder to go abroad
New Delhi, October 10
The Punjab government today failed in its attempt to get urgent hearing on its petition by the Supreme Court against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order permitting Capt Amarinder Singh to visit abroad in connection with a business deal and for treatment.

Punjab leaders meet PM, Sonia
New Delhi, October 10
Punjab Congress leaders have urged the centre to give priority to the farmers from the state in finalising proposals for the Rs 25,000 additional central assistance in agriculture, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech.

No deadline for negotiations, says El Baradei
New Delhi, October 10
Visiting IAEA chief Mohammad El Baradei today said the UN nuclear watchdog agency was prepared to wait till New Delhi was ready to discuss with it and there was no deadline on reaching the safeguards agreement with India.


UN atomic energy chief Mohammad El Baradei gestures as he speaks to mediapersons after meeting external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal
UN atomic energy chief Mohammad El Baradei gestures as he speaks to mediapersons after meeting external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi on Wednesday.






EARLIER STORIES




Visa Frauds
Middlemen not needed to get US visas, assures official
New Delhi, October 10
A senior US official today said Indian applicants for US visa did not need to take the route of agents and middlemen and cautioned them not to be fooled by advertisements for visa documents and promises of guaranteed visas.

Maya’s bungalow inaugurated with fanfare
Lucknow, October 10
On the occasion of the ‘grihpravesh’ of Mayawati’s personal bungalow in the city’s Cantonment area, quite out of character, ministers were seen dancing with abandon to the beat of a live band as Mayawati smiled on.

Govt machinery, funds misused for rally: SP
Lucknow, October 10
The Samajwadi Party today charged the Mayawati-led BSP government with misusing government machinery and making use of government funds to the tune of Rs 100 crore for organising the “Savdhan Raho, Aagey Badho” rally yesterday.

Maya gets reprieve in Taj case
New Delhi, October 10
In a major reprieve to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, the Supreme Court today refused to interfere in state Governor T.V. Rajeshwar’s order declining sanction to the CBI for her prosecution in the multi-crore Taj Corridor scam case, saying once the case was pending before the trial judge the apex court’s interference was not warranted.

Ludhiana Metro
Delhi experts to give detailed report
New Delhi, October 10
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) experts will be visiting Ludhiana to decide on the type of metro rail system best suited for the city’s traffic needs. The detailed project report (DPR) will spell out the exact financial, technical and other implications for the Punjab government’s ambitious project infrastructure for the city.

Pranab leaves for Russia today
New Delhi, October 10
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee will leave for Moscow tomorrow for the 13th session of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation.

Navy to induct vessel to check N-radiation
Mumbai, October 10
The Indian Navy will soon be inducting an environmental survey vehicle (ESV) developed for it by the DRDO. According to naval officials here, the ESV will be the Navy’s laboratory on wheels.

Nod to Rs 5 cr e-waste management project
Hyderabad, October 10
India's second modern facility for e-waste management is coming up in Hyderabad with the state pollution control board giving its consent for the Rs 5 crore project.

DM’s Murder
JD(U) MLA gets bail
Patna, October 10
A division Bench of the Patna High Court today granted bail to the sitting JD(U) MLA Munna Shukla and Shashi Sekhar Thakur in the 1994 killing of former Gopalganj DM G. Krishnaiah.

Former Karnataka CM Bommai dead
Bangalore, October 10
Former Karnataka Chief Minister S.R. Bommai died at a private hospital here after prolonged illness. He was 84. Bommai is survived by two sons including Basavaraj, a member of Legislative Council, and two daughters.

Dissension dogs Cong in poll-bound NE states
Guwahati, October 10
Internal squabbles over leadership and clamour for party poll tickets from all and sundry have led to brewing of dissension within the Congress state units in Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland ahead of the Assembly poll scheduled to be held in these states early next year.

Nitish tries to avert clash with bureaucracy
Patna, October 10
The apparently overenthusiastic bureaucracy, now reportedly given a free hand to work without fear or favour to cleanse the alleged negative image of Bihar,finally forced Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to act as a speed breaker.

Cong, govt in poll mode
New Delhi, October 10
Although the Left parties have publicly declared that the UPA government will last its full term, the Congress and the ruling alliance are not taking any chances. Both are working in tandem for a possible mid-term poll.

Mid-term poll next year, says Advani
Patna, October 10
The leader of the opposition and senior BJP leader L K Advani today hinted at the possibility of mid-term Lok Sabha poll by early next year.

Raghuvansh banks on people to check corruption
Rural Development Schemes
Guwahati, October 10
High-level of awareness among people and overwhelming participation of rural masses are must to keep corruption at bay in implementation of the Centrally-sponsored rural development schemes in the country.

Political Arithmetic
Cong ready to welcome Nitish sans BJP baggage
Patna, October 10
The Congress today apparently dropped broad hints to consider Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) strongman Nitish Kumar as its possible political ally provided the latter deserted the BJP.

Sharp fall in farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad, October 10
For the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, which takes pride in calling itself farmer-friendly, this should sound like music.

Scientists’ boat attacked
Panaji, October 10
A boat carrying six scientists of Waltair-Vishkhapatnam-based regional centre of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) here was attacked, off the Yermal coast, in Udupi district of Karnataka. No one was injured in the incident.

Come home, ailing man asks ultra son
Dibrugarh, October 10
The father of a top ULFA militant has urged his son to return home to look after his ailing parents. Ananda Dutta, in a letter to his son Jiten, said, “Your mother and I are not well. I can no longer work or do any physical labour. I experience pain in my body and bones.”

Villagers to get adequate relief amount
Bhopal, October 10
Villagers and farmers, affected by natural calamities, have begun receiving proper relief amounts after rules were amended and a suspended tahsildar was reinstated, who issued a cheque for a mere Rs 29 to a villager.

Experimentation key to education reforms: Arjun
New Delhi, October 10
The national conference of vice-chancellors on development of higher education opened in the Capital today. The two-day conference is being organised by the UGC and was inaugurated by the minister for human resource development Arjun Singh.

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Punjab fails to get urgent hearing in SC
HC nod to Amarinder to go abroad
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 10
The Punjab government today failed in its attempt to get urgent hearing on its petition by the Supreme Court against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order permitting Capt Amarinder Singh to visit abroad in connection with a business deal and for treatment.

Despite at least three attempts by a battery of lawyers for the Punjab government to get the matter listed today for urgent hearing, they could not succeed. In the morning, they mentioned the petition before Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan sitting in a constitution Bench but they were directed to take it up by a Bench headed by Justice Sema because mentioning was not normally allowed before a constitution Bench. Justice Sema’s Bench though refused to pass an order in the morning, yet they made a second attempt in the afternoon.

Since another petition of the Punjab government for the cancellation of Amarinder Singh’s bail is listed for hearing on October 12, the government lawyers are now trying to get the petition against his foreign visit also listed along with it.

Meanwhile, Amarinder’s lawyer, former additional advocate general Atul Nanda, criticised the government for making the former Chief Minister’s foreign visit such a “big issue” when he had “honestly” revealed his plan and purpose of the visit before the High Court, which granted him permission on October 8 after due deliberations.

“They (government) are making a hue and cry on a small matter like this. But the fact is that since the registration of FIR Capt Amarinder Singh was only called for questioning by the Vigilance Bureau only once on May 28 at its Ludhiana office when he had answered all their queries,” he claimed.

After that neither any notice was sent to him nor called for questioning but when the High Court had granted him permission, they suddenly were raising the issue of his interrogation and investigation, Nanda said.

“Capt Amarinder Singh was candid in detailing his business and medical treatment plans in his plea before the High Court, which showed his honesty and not hiding anything either from the court or the probe agency,” he said, describing the effort of the Badal government nothing but attempt to “persecute” him.

The High Court in its October 8 order permitted Amarinder to go abroad from October 11 onward for 50 days, first in connection with a deal for purchasing some property in Dubai and thereafter for treatment in the UK. He had been asked to return By November 30.

But the government challenged an order claiming that neither of the two grounds were the “cogent” reasons for allowing his plea by the High Court to let him stay abroad for 50 days when he faced investigation in the Ludhiana City Centre scam case.

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Punjab leaders meet PM, Sonia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
Punjab Congress leaders have urged the centre to give priority to the farmers from the state in finalising proposals for the Rs 25,000 additional central assistance in agriculture, announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech.

The party leaders, including PCC chief Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and union minister Ambika Soni, also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and invited her to visit the state.

The Congress delegation apprised the Prime Minister of the problems faced by the farmers in the border areas and also sought funds for proper functioning of the hospital in Jalandhar named after former Chief Minister Beant Singh.

Sources said Sonia Gandhi had agreed to come to the state to boost morale of the party workers and exact dates of her visit would be decided soon. The AICC has been concerned about complaints from the state Congress of “atrocities” against the party workers and the party president has met some of the families whose members lost their lives owing to alleged political victimisation.

The Congress has criticised the SAD-BJP government for “political vendetta” and has sought action against the guilty. With possibility of mid-term elections to the Lok Sabha looming large, the state leaders hope that Sonia’s visit would galvanise the workers.

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No deadline for negotiations, says El Baradei
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
Visiting IAEA chief Mohammad El Baradei today said the UN nuclear watchdog agency was prepared to wait till New Delhi was ready to discuss with it and there was no deadline on reaching the safeguards agreement with India.

“When they (government of India) are ready, we will be happy to negotiate with them… There is a domestic political dialogue on (here)… Our observation is that it is an issue for the government of India to decide,” El Baradei, who met external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, told newspersons here.

The IAEA chief said he wanted to see India managing to get out of the restrictions imposed by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and be able to operate as both a supplier and a recipient.

The IAEA chief said during his meeting with Mukherjee, the latter explained to him the 123 Agreement between India and the United States.

Asked if Mukherjee indicated to him when India would approach the IAEA on the safeguard agreement, El Baradei said he did not ask such a question to the external affairs minister.

Seeking to downplay apprehensions over the conclusion of the negotiations, he said the safeguards agreement was nothing of significance and nothing peculiar or special as the IAEA has four such agreements with India.

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Visa Frauds
Middlemen not needed to get US visas, assures official
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
A senior US official today said Indian applicants for US visa did not need to take the route of agents and middlemen and cautioned them not to be fooled by advertisements for visa documents and promises of guaranteed visas.

The official said India and the USA were working closely to counter the challenges of visa fraud posed by middlemen who exploit the gullibility of some Indian visa applicants.

Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Maura Harty, while talking to reporters here, made it clear that a visa applicant did not need middlemen in any way. “An applicant need not come through an agent to take an appointment or have an interview in a consulate,” she said.

She advised applicants to check the US embassy website, apply early and “be prepared to be truthful”. She added helpfully that the USA had neither changed the qualifications required for visa nor relaxed its vigilance against fraudulent visa applications.

Harty disclosed that the demand for US visas in India was “skyrocketing” with a 61 per cent increase in 2007, “one of the highest visa growth rates in the world”. The four US consulates in India had processed 725,000 visas this year.

Last year, the US department of commerce reported 407,000 arrivals from India, which is an increase of 18 per cent from 2005. On the other hand, as many as one lakh Americans travelled to India in 2007.

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Maya’s bungalow inaugurated with fanfare
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, October 10
On the occasion of the ‘grihpravesh’ of Mayawati’s personal bungalow in the city’s Cantonment area, quite out of character, ministers were seen dancing with abandon to the beat of a live band as Mayawati smiled on.

A day after the workers’ rally on the occasion of the first death anniversary of BSP founder Kanshi Ram, Mayawati decided to formally ‘inaugurate’ her 3 Nehru Road residence.

The bungalow has been renovated in her favorite dholpur stone in the characteristic haveli style replete with stone jallis.

The programme started with a band from Mumbai belting out Bollywood and folk songs. A stand up comedian kept the BSP parivar in splits. But the piece de résistance was when the compere asked those amongst the audience who were really happy on the occasion to express their joy by joining him in dancing.

Not ready to be seen as the odd one out, one by one everyone joined the dance, including S.C. Mishra, Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Baburam Kushwaha. It may be recalled that Mayawati first mentioned about acquiring a bungalow in Lucknow at the “Satta Prapt Karo Sankalp Maha rally” at Ambedkar maidan on 1 March 2007.

Giving a detailed account of her properties she had admitted that with the “crores of rupees” that her supporters had gifted her she had bought two bungalows - one in Delhi and another in Lucknow - along with some commercial property in New Delhi’s up market Connaught Place area so that she could maintain the bungalows through rent from the commercial property.

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Govt machinery, funds misused for rally: SP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, October 10
The Samajwadi Party today charged the Mayawati-led BSP government with misusing government machinery and making use of government funds to the tune of Rs 100 crore for organising the “Savdhan Raho, Aagey Badho” rally yesterday.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, SP state secretary and former minister Ashok Bajpai alleged that for the past one month, the entire state government machinery had been employed to ensure the success of the rally.

“From the lowly lekhpal to the chief secretary, everyone was running in circles to make sure that the necessary buses and tractor-trolleys were arranged to bring the crowds,” he claimed.

He also ridiculed Mayawati’s claim that she was not indulging in the politics of vendetta as Mulayam Singh Yadav is not in jail. “She did try her best, but did not succeed in putting netaji behind bars, as no charges could be established against him.”

Criticising Mayawati’s proposal made at the rally for the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh into Harit Pradesh, Bundelkahnd and Purvanchal for better management, Bajpai said his party would oppose any such move, as this would undermine the political significance of the state at the national level.

Bajpai also wondered where the huge funds for the string of Kanshi Ram projects would come when Mayawati had claimed at the rally that the state coffers were empty and the state was deep in debt. “Is she really serious about the projects or are they going to remain on paper?” he wondered.

According to Bajpai, there was a reserve of Rs 25,000 crore in the state exchequer when BSP government took over. Charging her government with mishandling of state finances he said, “She should let the people know what she did with the money and what is the position of the state’s coffers today and why.”

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Maya gets reprieve in Taj case
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 10
In a major reprieve to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, the Supreme Court today refused to interfere in state Governor T.V. Rajeshwar’s order declining sanction to the CBI for her prosecution in the multi-crore Taj Corridor scam case, saying once the case was pending before the trial judge the apex court’s interference was not warranted.

A three-judge Bench of justices S.B. Sinha, S.H. Kapadia and D.K. Jain said after the apex court had directed the CBI to place the entire material before the trial judge, it was entirely the discretion of the trial court to take further steps.

The apex court or the high court’s jurisdiction could only be invoked by way of an appeal against the trial court order if it did not take any further action but not in a direct writ petition before them under Article 32 and 226, respectively, the Bench ruled.

Though acknowledging that the probe was ordered by the apex court, and the FIR was also registered in the case on its direction, the Bench said once the Supreme Court had come to the conclusion that investigation in the case had been carried out properly “it would not venture to take over the functions of the magistrate or pass any order that would interfere with its (trial court’s) judicial functions.”

“No authority, same and except a superior court in hierarchy of judiciary, can issue any direction that otherwise take away the discretionary jurisdiction of any court of law,” the apex court held.

After rejecting the CBI plea for the closure of the case against Mayawati and her Cabinet colleague Naseemudddin Siddiqui, the Supreme Court by an order of June 3, 2007, had directed the agency to file the charge sheet in the case before Lucknow’s special court and place all material and evidence before it to apply its mind.

“Once a final report has been filed in terms of sub-section (1) of Section 173

of CrPC, it is the magistrate and magistrate alone who can take appropriate decision in the matter in one way or the other,” the apex court said.

The three-judge Bench, which is a special Bench hearing all Taj Mahal related environmental issues, said its primary concern was the protection of the monument and in the due course when it came across certain irregularities pertaining to the Taj Corridor, it had ordered a CBI probe in it. “We do not think that we should go beyond the same,” Justice Sinha, who heads the Bench, said while writing the judgement.

It clarified that if the correctness of the Governor’s order on sanction or any “error” committed by him was to be challenged only an “appropriate court” would be entitled to hear it “but not this Bench,” the judgement said.

The verdict came on a petition initially filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal, the main complainant in the case but since he was kept away from the proceedings, amicus curiae Krishan Mahajan was asked to deal with it and he filed a separate petition challenging Governor T.V. Rajeshwer’s order denying sanction to the CBI.

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Ludhiana Metro
Delhi experts to give detailed report
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) experts will be visiting Ludhiana to decide on the type of metro rail system best suited for the city’s traffic needs. The detailed project report (DPR) will spell out the exact financial, technical and other implications for the Punjab government’s ambitious project infrastructure for the city.

The state government had yesterday initiated the era of hi-tech mass rapid transit system (MRTS) in the state with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the DMRC for preparing a DPR for its most crowded city.

DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal told The Tribune today that the entire process of preparing the DPR would take six months and would cost around Rs 2 crore.

“The DMRC would carry out detailed Ludhiana-specific studies to understand engineering, technical and financial implications of the project and what is best suited for the city,” he said.

The experts would identify best routes, based on traffic pattern of the city, and corridors in which metro trains will run. Studies would also be conducted to decide technical requirements. Another aspect would be what kind of metro rail, elevated or underground, would best suit Ludhiana’s needs.

Dayal said the state government had given a presentation on August 13 to the DMRC chief E. Sreedharan based on a RITES report, which stated that the Ludhiana population, currently around 13.5 lakh, was expected to rise up to 32.96 lakh by 2021.

“The preliminary feasibility report by RITES five years ago proposed light rail transit system with a peak hour traffic up to 25,000 that will run at an average speed of 30 km per hour covering a 31.6-km network in Ludhiana,” Dayal said. And the most important aspect of any project of this dimension, financial implications would also form an important part of the DPR project.

“Generally, for such projects it is the state government that arranges the funds. Since the central government also encourages MRTS projects, it also pitches in. Many state governments have also taken a loan from banks like the JBIC. Besides, there is also an option to bring in private players, like Delhi metro did for its airport link,” he said.

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Pranab leaves for Russia today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee will leave for Moscow tomorrow for the 13th session of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation.

He will be accompanied by a delegation, including senior officials from the ministries of external affairs, finance, petroleum and natural gas, steel, science and technology, and culture during the October 11-13 visit, a foreign office spokesman said today.

The commission will review progress in various fields since the 12th Session of the Inter-Governmental Commission, which took place here in December 2006.

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Navy to induct vessel to check N-radiation

Mumbai, October 10
The Indian Navy will soon be inducting an environmental survey vehicle (ESV) developed for it by the DRDO. According to naval officials here, the ESV will be the Navy’s laboratory on wheels.

The ESV will be deployed along the coast to test nuclear and other forms of radiation. It is a mobile laboratory equipped with state-of-art instruments that can estimate radioactivity in solid, liquid and gaseous forms.

The ESV will be useful to test radiological contamination of food and drink in the coastal areas as well, according to a statement put out by the defence establishment.

“The ESV is capable of measuring alpha, beta and gamma radiation quantitatively and qualitatively at even very low levels of radioactivity,” the statement said. — TNS

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Nod to Rs 5 cr e-waste management project
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, October 10
India's second modern facility for e-waste management is coming up in Hyderabad with the state pollution control board giving its consent for the Rs 5 crore project.

E-waste represents the flip side of the IT boom in the country. It includes obsolete electronic devices such as discarded computers, cellular phones, calculators, audio and video devices, scanners, printers and electronic components.

Most of the discarded devices grouped together as waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipments contain hazardous substances and chemicals and have been a major cause of concern, particularly in the wake of rapid growth of the IT industry.

The e-waste disposal facility, the second in the country after Bangalore, is coming up on a 5- acre site at Maheshwaram on the city outskirts by G.J Multiclave.

“We hope to complete the project in another seven months. Much of the e-waste is toxic in nature and is likely to create adverse impact on environment and health if not handled properly," said S.John Robert, manager, G.J Multiclave.

Apart from computers and telecommunication devices, the e-waste is broadly categorised as comprising household appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, vacuum cleaners, television sets, fluorescent tubes, electronic toys, medical appliances and instruments.

The chemical elements contained in this waste include lead, tin, copper, silicon, carbon apart from small amounts of cadmium and mercury.

Around 65 cities in India generate over 60 per cent of the e-waste in India, while 10 states account for 70 per cent of the e-waste. In terms of the highest e-waste generating states, Maharashtra ranks first followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. 

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DM’s Murder
JD(U) MLA gets bail

Patna, October 10
A division Bench of the Patna High Court today granted bail to the sitting JD(U) MLA Munna Shukla and Shashi Sekhar Thakur in the 1994 killing of former Gopalganj DM G. Krishnaiah.

The development came a day after former Lok sabha MP Lovely Anand was granted bail by the Patna High Court yesterday.

Lovely along with Munna Shukla and Shashi Kumar Thakur were awarded life imprisonment on Otober 3 by a lower court for inciting a mob that lynched Krishnaiah 13 years ago. The mob accompanied the funeral procession of the brother of Munna Shukla, Chotan Shukla, who was then a leader of the Bihar Peoples’ Party(BPP).

Soon after her release on bail from Beur jail today, Lovely Anand charged the Nitish government with hatching a conspiracy to falsely implicate her, her husband Anand Mohan and others in the Krishnaiah case in the name of establishing the rule of law.

Justice Shivkirti Singh and Justice S.M. Mahfooz Alam granted them bail reportedly after hearing the arguments of defence lawyers who claimed that there was no direct evidence to show their involvement in the DM’s lynching. — TNS

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Former Karnataka CM Bommai dead

Bangalore, October 10
Former Karnataka Chief Minister S.R. Bommai died at a private hospital here after prolonged illness. He was 84.

Bommai is survived by two sons including Basavaraj, a member of Legislative Council, and two daughters.

The end for Bommai, who was instrumental in installing the first non-Congress government in Karnataka in 1983, came at about 8.35 pm at a private hospital where he was undergoing treatment for about two months Basavaraj, who was present at his father's side, said.

With the state under the President's rule, the Raj Bhavan announced a three-day state mourning as a mark of respect to the departed leader. A state funeral would be accorded to Bommai.

Governor Rameshwar Thakur and a host of political leaders, including former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and KPCC president M. Mallikarjun Kharge, condoled the death of Bommai.

A freedom fighter, Bommai, a law graduate, plunged into politics through M.N. Roy's Radical Democratic Party and was elected to the state assembly for the first time in 1967. He was a staunch proponent of Janata Dal as a political alternative to Congress and BJP.

The crowning moment in Bommai’s political career came on August 13, 1988, when he became the Chief Minister of a Janata Dal government in Karnataka.

But Bommai's tenure was short as the Congress government at the Centre dismissed him as Chief Minister on April 21, 1989 after a section of his own party men withdrew support to him.

Bommai moved the Supreme Court challenging his dismissal.

The apex court gave a landmark judgement in what came to be known as S.R. Bommai versus Union of India case making floor test as the benchmark for testing majority of a head of government in the event of doubt. — PTI

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Dissension dogs Cong in poll-bound NE states
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, October 10
Internal squabbles over leadership and clamour for party poll tickets from all and sundry have led to brewing of dissension within the Congress state units in Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland ahead of the Assembly poll scheduled to be held in these states early next year.

The internal squabbles in the state party units in the poll-bound states in the north-east are definitely going to have a bearing on the poll prospects of the Congress unless the AICC takes care of the growing internal dissension in time.

The leadership crisis in the Tripura Congress has continued for a long time, with several senior PCC leaders from the state often shuttling between Agartala and New Delhi to knock at the AICC’s door seeking the removal of the state PCC chief Samir Ranjan Burman.

The anti-Barman group within the Tripura PCC is led by his bete noir and former state chief minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar. He is getting support from several former state ministers and ex-PCC presidents. However, the Congress high command has so far stood behind Burman.

The Congress state unit in Mizoram is virtually a divided house, much to the glee of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), led by chief minister Pu Zoramthanga. The PCC president in Mizoram and former chief minister Lalthanhawla have been too busy to tackle dissension within the party than to chalk out strategy against the MNF that is ruling the hill state for the second consecutive term now.

A Congress source in Nagaland informed that the party hopes to come back to power in the hill state capitalising on the dismal performance of the present Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) government, but the absence of veteran leader and former chief minister S.C. Jamir is being deeply felt at this juncture.

Jamir, who is now the officiating Governor of Goa, has been banned from coming back to the state by the Naga rebel group NSCN-IN which is now engaged in peace process with the Government of India, branding him as anti-Naga people and anti-Naga nationalism.

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Nitish tries to avert clash with bureaucracy
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, October 10
The apparently overenthusiastic bureaucracy, now reportedly given a free hand to work without fear or favour to cleanse the alleged negative image of Bihar,finally forced Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to act as a speed breaker.

This happened despite his assurance of a positive role by the police in supporting judiciary in the ongoing speedy trials of criminal cases through fast track courts.

Nitish was prompted to intervene to avert a possible clash between the bureaucracy and the political establishment, including his own party men, in the wake of the recent comments by state home secretary Afzal Amanullah. Afzal had said the government would ensure a speedy trial against 21 strongmen, all politicians cutting across party lines, facing criminal charges and take the cases to a logical conclusion in three months.

Afzal made such remarks after the recent conviction of former MP Anand Mohan, who was awarded death sentence by a Patna Sessions Court for leading and inciting a mob that lynched former Gopalganj DM G. Krishnaiah in 1994.

JD(U) MP Prabhunath Singh, who too is facing a criminal case, besides party MLA Neeraj Kumar were among others who raised serious objections to Afzal’s remarks.

Nitish yesterday itself clarified that his government was not in a mood to target any individual and that law would take its own course in any criminal case. He also asserted that a speedy trial in any case was a matter concerning court.

Speedy trials between January 2006 and September 2007 under the Nitish rule, however, had witnessed death sentences to a record 41 lawbreakers.

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Cong, govt in poll mode
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 10
Although the Left parties have publicly declared that the UPA government will last its full term, the Congress and the ruling alliance are not taking any chances. Both are working in tandem for a possible mid-term poll.

Going into an overdrive, the UPA has recently announced a series of programmes and policies for the “aam admi” like increasing the MSP on wheat, raising the dearness allowance, “aam admi bima yojana” and health insurance scheme for BPL workers.

Similarly, there is frenetic activity in the Congress as the organisation gears up to put its house in order. In fact, there is a buzz at the Congress headquarters ever since the organisational changes were announced and party scion Rahul Gandhi was appointed AICC general secretary.

Although Rahul does not visit the party office regularly, the few meetings he has attended at the AICC suggest that the Congress has gone into election mode.

Today, he participated in a two-hour meeting of the newly-constituted publicity and publication committee where it was decided to prepare booklets and pamphlets on issues like Ram Setu, which is set to become a key electoral issue in the coming Gujarat elections, the UPA’s achievements vis-a-vis those of the NDA government, the Sachar Committee’s report and the government’s follow-up on it and the progress made by India in 60 years since Independence.

This material is to be disseminated to party workers to enable them to articulate the party’s position on key political issues and highlight the centre’s pro-poor policies.

Speaking at length on the importance of communicating with the cadres, Rahul pointed out that the content of the disseminated material should be tailored according to the audience. “While a lengthy academic paper on the Indo-US nuke deal might be in order for MPs who have to speak on this issue in Parliament but if I have to prepare something for my workers in Amethi, I don’t need more than a page,” he told the meeting, adding that the issue should be short and explained in bullet-form to enable the workers to understand it better. In fact, the party has already prepared a booklet on the nuke deal, which is in the process of being translated into regional languages.

AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, in charge of the publicity committee, will also focus on the farmers’ issues and price rise. The Congress will have a lot of explaining to do on both these fronts as the UPA is in the dock for its inability to deal effectively with the deepening agrarian crisis and spiraling inflation.

Gandhi set the tone for the coming days when he accompanied other AICC general secretaries to submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting that the government’s flagship programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, be implemented in the entire country. The UPA government duly gave its consent to this request a few days later, allowing the Congress in general and Rahul in particular to take full credit for espousing the cause of the poor.

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Mid-term poll next year, says Advani
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, October 10
The leader of the opposition and senior BJP leader L K Advani today hinted at the possibility of mid-term Lok Sabha poll by early next year.

Talking to the mediapersons here today at the airport Advani claimed that the UPA coalition government at the Centre would not last its full term following the differences on the civil nuclear deal leading to mid-term elections.

He was here to attend a function to celebrate the 85th birthday of veteran party leader and former Governor, Kailashpati Mishra.

Advani said, “There is a great probability of mid-term poll taking place in the first half of 2008”. Without naming the Congress and the Left, the former deputy Prime Minister asserted that those who created the situation for a snap poll themselves knew that they would not fare well in the election.

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Raghuvansh banks on people to check corruption
Rural Development Schemes
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, October 10
High-level of awareness among people and overwhelming participation of rural masses are must to keep corruption at bay in implementation of the Centrally-sponsored rural development schemes in the country.

Stating this, the union minister for rural development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has mooted a five-pronged strategy for checking corruption and prevention of diversion of funds meant for rural development schemes.

The minister who is on a two-day stock-taking visit to the north-east today said “Awareness, people’s participation, transparency, vigilance and monitoring and accountability combined can check corruption and prevent diversion of funds.”

He said the people must keep a tab on the implementation of schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Total Sanitation Campaign, PMGSY, SGSY, IAY, SGRY given that the Central government had pumped in crores of rupees for the upliftment of the rural sector.

The minister said inadequate presence of nationalised banks and to some extent insurgency had affected implementation of rural development schemes in certain remote parts of the area.

He informed that insurgency had especially affected schemes where contractors’ involvement was required, in some areas of the N-E such as Manipur and remote areas of Assam.

However, implementation of rural employment generation schemes had not been affected as the Centre accorded it highest priority.

The minister was appalled over the role played by nationalised banks in the region. “Total 118 blocks in the N-E are without a bank branch while 149 bank branches in rural Assam are operating at zero landing rates which is appalling. I am going to take it up with the Reserve Bank of India and the Union Finance Ministry. Rural development is not possible if banks shy away.” he said.

Meanwhile, taking into account the problem of marketing faced by self-help groups (SHGs) from rural areas sponsored under the rural employment generation schemes, the Central government has decided to fund setting up of marketing hubs in all state capitals and other urban centres in the country. 

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Political Arithmetic
Cong ready to welcome Nitish sans BJP baggage
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, October 10
The Congress today apparently dropped broad hints to consider Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) strongman Nitish Kumar as its possible political ally provided the latter deserted the BJP.

Talking to mediapersons here today the newly appointed spokesperson of AICC and union minister of state for telecommunications, Shakeel Ahmad said the possibility of any understanding with Nitish could only be considered once he left his present association with the BJP.

Ahmad explained saying, "Personally,no body can doubt Nitish’s secular credentials, but as long as he is in alliance with the communal forces like BJP, the Congress can not think of roping in him".

The issue cropped up in the backdrop of the reported remarks made by Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) chief Ramvilas Paswan where he expressed his party’s willingness to contest the next Lok Sabha poll on its own.

Paswan was reported to have made such remarks during the ‘Iftar’ party hosted by Governor R.S Gavai here yesterday evening. He had said whenever the next round of elections was held, his party would not contest it in any seat-sharing arrangement with other UPA constituents.

Incidentally, a few days ago Paswan was seen sharing the dais with the deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Modi at the ‘Iftar’ hosted by the latter here.

While Ahmad feigned ignorance over such remarks by Paswan, he said as of now the LJP, RJD and NCP, besides the Congress, were partners of UPA in Bihar."We would certainly like to continue the same combination of UPA here. But the actual alliances for the next Lok Sabha poll can only be worked out at the time of negotiations across the table," he quipped.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dinner meeting with Nitish in Delhi in August last, besides Digvijay Singh’s calling on Bihar Chief Minister in the same month, are being seen in the corridors of power here as the initial steps by the Congress to woo the JD (U) leader.

Digvijay even went a step ahead by blaming deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi for the mess during the initial days of floods in Bihar in August.Modi was holding the fort in Nitish’s absence at that time.

Interestingly, ever since Nitish had occupied the post of Chief Minister by dislodging Rabri Devi, he apparently maintained a good rapport with Ramvilas Paswan and vice-versa. Nitish had even called on Paswan in Delhi last year to seek his help to rebuild Bihar. Paswan too was more critical of the RJD than JD (U) and the BJP.

Despite being a party to NDA, the JD (U) at its national executive meeting held recently in Delhi reportedly decided to contest the coming Gujarat Assembly poll without the BJP.

On the civil nuclear deal, Ahmad claimed that rift between the Congress and the Left was getting narrow and hoped for a breakthrough soon as neither of the parties was in favour of a mid-term poll.

He also praised the role played by the veteran Marxist leader and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu to avert mid-term poll in view of his influence on leaders of the Left parties, including the CPM.

Ahmad was referring to the recent meeting between the external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and Jyoti Basu in Kolkata recently.

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Sharp fall in farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, October 10
For the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, which takes pride in calling itself farmer-friendly, this should sound like music.

The farmers' suicides in the state have dropped significantly this year.

Not very long ago, the spate of suicides across rural Andhra Pradesh was a major political issue which went on to influence the poll outcome in 2004.

The number of suicides has come down to 141 this year, compared to 1,212 in 2004, 657 in 2005 and 514 in 2006. It was alleged that over 4,000 debt-ridden farmers had committed suicide during the previous nine-year regime of TDP, headed by N.Chandrababu Naidu.

"Through a series of measures, we have been able to instill a sense of confidence among farmers. Our sustained focus on agriculture and irrigation has helped in revival of rural economy," agriculture minister N.Raghuveera Reddy said.

The supply of free power and increased institutional credit flow to farmers, remunerative prices for their produce, input subsidies, effective market intervention and building new infrastructure in rural area are among the steps that led to improvement in the situation, officials said.

Significantly, no suicides have been reported from Warangal, Mahboobnagar, West Godavari, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts this year.

"Since coming to power three years ago, we have spent more than Rs 21,000 crores on irrigation projects, apart from welfare measures like health insurance, housing and pensions," the state Congress spokesman P.Venkat Rao said.

These measures, he said, had helped in mitigating the plight of farmers who had suffered during the previous TDP rule.

The debt burden, crop failure due to pest attack, failure of borewells and vagaries of Nature are seen as the major reasons for farmers' suicides in this predominantly agriculture-based state.

A one-man commission, headed by retired judge L. Ramachenna Reddy, had, in its report in 2005, blamed the TDP government's lopsided policies for large scale-suicides and made a series of recommendations to put agriculture sector back on the rails.

The probe panel found fault with the previous government's decision to stop payment of ex-gratia to the kin of farmers who committed suicide under the mistaken notion that compensation could encourage more suicides.

The neglect of rural economy was widely seen as a major factor responsible for TDP's debacle in the 2004 polls.

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Scientists’ boat attacked

Panaji, October 10
A boat carrying six scientists of Waltair-Vishkhapatnam-based regional centre of National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) here was attacked, off the Yermal coast, in Udupi district of Karnataka. No one was injured in the incident.

The attackers, boarding two canoes, alighted into the NIO boat two days ago and took away geo-physical survey instruments after a brief scuffle with the scientists, a NIO spokesman said here today.

The NIO officials, who were yet to ascertain whether the act was piracy or a loot for petty gains, said they were still studying the incident.

The boat was hired by NIO and did not belong to the institute, the spokesman said. “All the six scientists from Waltair regional centre were on a sponsored project to the west coast to conduct research on sea variations and tsunami alerts,” the spokesman said.

NIO director V P Shetye said the institute was accessing the loss incurred for the instruments. A case has been registered with the Udupi police who are investigating the matter, Shetye said. — PTI

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Come home, ailing man asks ultra son

Dibrugarh, October 10
The father of a top ULFA militant has urged his son to return home to look after his ailing parents. Ananda Dutta, in a letter to his son Jiten, said, “Your mother and I are not well. I can no longer work or do any physical labour. I experience pain in my body and bones.”

In his letter dated October 8, released to the media today, the septuagenarian Dutta, addressing his son by his nickname Munu, also wrote, “After knowing about our condition, I hope you will return home. We urge you to return to the mainstream and bring back peace to our home.”

Jiten is the commander of the ULFA’s strike force 28 battalion's ‘Charlie’ company. The Myanmar-trained Jiten(35) is a close associate of the recently-arrested 28 battalion commander Prabal Neog and had plotted the massacre of Hindi-speaking people in upper Assam. — PTI

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Villagers to get adequate relief amount

Bhopal, October 10
Villagers and farmers, affected by natural calamities, have begun receiving proper relief amounts after rules were amended and a suspended tahsildar was reinstated, who issued a cheque for a mere Rs 29 to a villager.

“I had accompanied CM Shivraj Singh Couhan to a village in Seoni district to distribute relief amounts. The tahsildar wished to hand over the cheque to a villager but I stopped him as he would have to spend more in obtaining the cash,” Madhya Pradesh revenue minister Kamal Patel said today. The official was suspended forthwith but then had to be reinstated as he was only following the rules. — UNI

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Experimentation key to education reforms: Arjun

New Delhi, October 10
The national conference of vice-chancellors on development of higher education opened in the Capital today. The two-day conference is being organised by the UGC and was inaugurated by the minister for human resource development Arjun Singh.

Arjun Singh in his inaugural address emphasised that, “The time has come that the academic world of the country comes to terms with the reality.” The minister further added that, “Experimentation should be the key word for higher education reforms.” This national conference is really the culmination of four regional conferences that the UGC had organised in Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and New Delhi.

The minister asked the vice-chancellors to rise up to the challenge of India today and present a package for higher education that would take the nation forward. — TNS

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